me·​tic·​u·​lous mə-ˈti-kyə-ləs How to pronounce meticulous (audio)
: marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details
a meticulous researcher
meticulosity noun
meticulously adverb
meticulousness noun

Did you know?

Meticulous Has Fearful Roots

It may surprise you to learn that meticulous is derived from the Latin word for "fearful"—meticulosus—and ultimately comes from the Latin noun metus, meaning "fear." Although meticulous currently has no "fearful" meanings, it was originally used as a synonym of "frightened" and "timid." This sense had fallen into disuse by 1700, and in the 19th century meticulous acquired a new sense of "overly and timidly careful" (probably influenced by the French word méticuleux). This in turn led to the current meaning of "painstakingly careful," with no connotations of fear at all. The newest use was controversial among some usage commentators at first, but it has since become by far the most common meaning and is no longer considered an error.

Choose the Right Synonym for meticulous

careful, meticulous, scrupulous, punctilious mean showing close attention to detail.

careful implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes.

a careful worker

meticulous may imply either commendable extreme carefulness or a hampering finicky caution over small points.

meticulous scholarship

scrupulous applies to what is proper or fitting or ethical.

scrupulous honesty

punctilious implies minute, even excessive attention to fine points.

punctilious observance of ritual

Examples of meticulous in a Sentence

Always meticulous about his appearance in the past, he had become dirty and unkempt, with straggly hair, stained clothes, and patches of silver stubble on his chin. Minette Walters, Fox Evil, 2002
She was very much the craftswoman, all her work meticulous, slow, perfect. Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman, 1998
In dense, meticulous arguments … Brooten mounts an assault on that view. Cullen Murphy, Atlantic, August 1993
He described the scene in meticulous detail. He is meticulous about keeping accurate records.
Recent Examples on the Web As the landscape of digital payments evolves, the unsung hero in this narrative is the meticulous attention to data quality, serving as the cornerstone for fostering a secure, trustworthy and frictionless financial ecosystem. Rob Heidenreich, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 His playing was meticulous and breathtaking — two hallmarks of pretty much all of Mehldau’s work — as his hands moved steadily along the keys and his eyes checked in with notes/music on some type of an iPad-like tablet that Mehldau brought out on stage. Jim Harrington, The Mercury News, 12 Feb. 2024 The inspection process Leff explains that each of the planes have gone through a meticulous inspection process developed by Boeing and the FAA to ensure each aircraft complies with the FAA’s Airworthiness Directive and is safe to fly. Rachel Chang, Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Jan. 2024 Her characters, dressed in waistcoats and bonnets, were rendered with meticulous attention to anatomical detail, an outgrowth of Potter’s long interest in natural science. Jess Bidgood, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 But the restaurant was shuttered by then, and Laura, who for decades kept a meticulous diary, could find no record of that meal. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, 31 Jan. 2024 This meticulous coordination acts as a shield against potential contradictions and discrepancies that vigilant AI systems will uncover instantly. Richard Torrenzano, Fortune, 31 Jan. 2024 Oddy was just as meticulous in re-creating Hedwig’s garden, which adopts a utilitarian design with its rigid pathways and carefully planted greenery. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2024 Smith was meticulous in curating Trailhead’s inventory. Melanie D.g. Kaplan, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'meticulous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


earlier, "fearful," borrowed from Latin metīculōsus, metūculōsus "timid, apprehensive," from metū-, stem of metus "fear, dread" (of uncertain origin) + -culōsus (in perīculōsus "involving danger, perilous")

Note: The senses "overscrupulous," then "careful, scrupulous" may depend on French méticuleux, for which these meanings are attested somewhat earlier than in English.

First Known Use

1827, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of meticulous was in 1827

Dictionary Entries Near meticulous

Cite this Entry

“Meticulous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


me·​tic·​u·​lous mə-ˈtik-yə-ləs How to pronounce meticulous (audio)
: extremely or overly careful in thinking about or dealing with small details
a meticulous researcher
meticulously adverb
meticulousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on meticulous

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